The Psychology of Reflective Dressing

Category: Data & Insights
The Psychology of Reflective Dressing

eBay UK is working with Fashion Psychologist and Author Shakaila Forbes-Bell to take a closer look at the pre-loved fashion being worn by the Islanders on this series of Love Island, and encourage people at home to consider more conscious shopping habits. It also reveals how the psychology of Reflective Dressing can be used to guide a consumer on their journey from being a browser to a becoming a buyer and making a purchase.

Coined by eBay for this new series of Love Island, Reflective Dressing is a mindset which encapsulates both the notion that everyone should consider pre-loved first, and recognises the power of fashion as a vehicle for self-expression. Bringing in her knowledge and expertise, Shakaila has shared some of the psychological principles at play in the fashion trends we have seen on the islanders so far, and the benefits that come with making more mindful dressing decisions.

Reflective dressing empowers you to think about how your dress represents you beyond a surface level, how it impacts your relationships and the world around you. The power of clothes to signal your interests was perfectly highlighted on the first night of the new season, where we saw both Will and Ronn opt for brown floral shirts. Their shared style echoed their shared romantic interests as both were later shown vying for the attention of fellow islander Lana. Studies have shown that we often make accurate judgements about a person’s character based on their style, and Will pairing his Prada shirt with a pair of Ugg slippers certainly speaks to the quirkiness of his character and unconventional lifestyle. 

Moreover, studies show that considering the style of people you’re connected to, even unconsciously, helps to build a stronger bond and signals that you’re ‘part of the team’, which bolsters your confidence and creates a natural appeal. Last year, we saw Danica and Indiyah develop a close bond, and they were also shown wearing the same Poster Girl dress in different colours.

– Shakaila Forbes-Bell, Fashion Psychologist and Author

Psychology of Reflective Dressing

As we enter a fresh series of Love Island with new contestants, Shakalia has uncovered the psychology behind the four fashion trends eBay’s Pre-loved Fashion Stylist Amy Bannerman has curated for this year’s villa wardrobe: ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Business vs Party’, ‘Dressed up Denim’ and ‘Heavy Metal’, and what it could suggest about the contestants that are choosing to dress in each of these styles. 


Tutti Frutti brings colour and joy, it’s all about the pinks, yellows, oranges and blues, integrated in an explosion of neon blazers, dresses and bright two-pieces.

Saturated and brighter colours are more arousing. Studies have determined that the brightness of your clothing can be more important than facial expressions when people judge your capability.

Brightening up your wardrobe comes with numerous benefits, such as the ability to enhance ‘opportunities for creative expression’. As we saw during the first episode, Olivia and Tanyel looked to make a statement in bold coloured bikinis and opted for bright dresses at night. On the first night, Olivia wore a bright White Fox orange co-ord and Tanyel opted for a fuschia yellow Meshki dress, both from eBay. Olivia kept it bright for the 90s pre-loved party too, opting for a stand-out neon Miscreants dress which screamed Tutti Frutti!

– Shakaila Forbes-Bell


Business v Party is all about the merging of partywear with slouchy tailoring and creating unique looks that can be worn day and night.

The goldilocks principle is essentially the idea that taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that is where it’s at. Goldilocks correctly acknowledged that psychological well-being is often not found in the extremes but when there is a sufficient balance between both the simplistic and the extreme. Equally satisfying our need to stand out with our need to fit in does wonders for our sense of self.

The research shows that while people certainly feel more authoritative and competent when wearing formal attire, they are friendliest when wearing casual clothing. Call it high-low dressing or casual chic. For example, as we saw last season with Tasha’s black prom dress with lace gloves, black is linked to confidence which is certainly something we saw her gain throughout her time in the villa. So far in this series, farmer Will Young has been playful with his choices opting for smart trousers paired with casual trainers. Recently, after calling things off with Zara, Tom has dressed to impress both Olivia and bombshell Ellie opting for smart trousers and trainers during the evenings.

– Shakaila Forbes-Bell


Dressed Up Denim is a timeless staple and it’s no secret that it’s much better than fresh off the rack.

Casual clothing like denim and jeans are go-to items when you want to appear approachable and relatable. Studies show that people wearing jeans were rated highly on sociability and extraversion and were deemed to be more interesting.

According to endowment theory, upcycling our clothes can be incredibly beneficial. The theory argues that we feel more attached and place greater value on things that we have customised and added our personal touch to, and as denim is one of the most durable materials, it’s a great option when it comes to customisation. Last series we saw Paige wearing pre-loved denim jeans at eBay’s Blue Party, and with the cooler nights out in South Africa, Ron embraced the double denim look at eBay’s 90s pre-loved party last week!

– Shakaila Forbes-Bell


Inspired by Kourtney and Travis, Heavy Metal is bringing back rebellious dressing with metallic skirts, leather jackets and vintage Ts.

Embracing vintage clothing is beneficial because it allows us to experience the positive benefits of nostalgia. Anything that induces nostalgia can make people experience higher self-esteem, feel less lonely, more optimistic, more socially connected and more creative.

Heavy metal could also be a great trend to embrace if it’s different from your usual style. Research has shown that dressing outside the norm can release tension as it helps you experience escapism. We’ve already seen some great Heavy Metal looks in this series on Lana, and look forward to seeing more bold outfits as the series goes on.

– Shakaila Forbes-Bell

4, 3, 2, 1 Rule of Reflective Dressing

To help those at home take up more mindful shopping habits, Shakaila has also revealed her 4,3,2,1 rule of Reflective Dressing: 

4 years

Before you buy something, ask yourself: will you still wear it in four years? Mindless shopping purchases often tend to be fad items with no longevity. Avoid this wastefulness by picturing your future self in the outfit. If that image doesn’t look right, walk away.

3 outfits or occasions

If you can envision yourself wearing the thing you’re planning on buying on at least three different occasions or with three different outfits, that’s a sure-fire way to tell if it has longevity. 

2 deep breaths

In through the nose and out through the mouth. All of that dopamine and adrenaline flooding your system before shopping makes you lose focus, and mindful shopping is all about being present. Taking a couple of deep breaths tells the sympathetic nervous system in your brain to calm down. The result? Less anxiety and increased concentration.

1 night’s sleep

Put the laptop down, put the hanger back on the rail and lay your head down. It’s the same rule I have when I’m about to send an essay-long text to someone who has royally pissed me off. After a good night’s sleep, that text looks ridiculous – and the same might go for the coat you’re planning to buy. If you wake up and can’t stop thinking about it, that should signal that you’re making the right decision.

Psychology of Reflective Dressing for Retailers

What this means for retailers is spelling out the value of fashion in your product descriptions. Spell out the timelessness of the garment, talk about it’s longevity and how it can be paired with other outfits to create new looks to be worn on different occasions.

Speaking to the value of the garment and how often it can be worn will help close the sale and help prevent the buyer from walking away guiding them into making a considered purchase.


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